The Detroit Lions decided to halt team practice on Tuesday, in response to the police shooting of 29-year old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The incident, in which Blake was multiple seven times in the back by Kenosha police officers as he walked to his SUV, was caught on camera and has inspired renewed protests and demonstrations across America. On Tuesday, Blake’s father revealed that his son was paralyzed from the waist down. Blake was shot in front of his children.
The Lions were the first NFL team on Tuesday to halt activities in demonstration for social justice. The players spoke to the media following the decision, in which they said that football was not as important today as using their platform to create change.
“What happened to Jacob Blake is not okay and we’re going to speak on it,” said safety Duron Harmon.
“Coach [Matt Patricia] pulled everyone aside and said, ‘what happened on Sunday was terrible and shouldn’t have happened.’ And he opened up the space for us just to talk, and that conversation went everywhere. People talking about experiences to people talking about just their feelings towards the tragic even that took place.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford said that the decision to cancel practice was organic, and wasn’t discussed before the start of the day. “Football is the last thing on our mind at this moment to be honest with you,” he said.
“We can’t stay silent,” said defensive end Trey Flowers. “It can not be us going through our regular day. So today we stand unified. What you didn’t see was a lot of discussion behind closed doors. A lot of heavy hearts and a lot of words being said.”
Flowers stressed that this was a unified decision as a team, and was the decision of the Lions players themselves.
“We’ll play football, but we’ll also change the world with our platform,” he said.
“You might step on some toes, you might ruffle some feathers, but in order for something to happen, someone has to be uncomfortable. I think everyone insides these walls understands that, understands the backlash that may come with it...how the media try to depict it, how fans try to depict it, how they’ll say there’s no room for politics. But like I said, we’re football players but we’re humans. Everyone in this world is human.”
This country has a problem! And we will not be silent and stand by as it occurs and reoccurs! Proud member of this team✊ ✊ https://t.co/gsim9exDtf— Kerryon Johnson (@AyeyoKEJO) August 25, 2020
The Lions address the incident following the statements of individual players across sports, including NBA superstar Lebron James and Saints running back Alvin Kamara. Previous demonstrations, stemming from the shooting of George Floyd in Minneapolis, have inspired athletes across America and the world to speak out against systemic racism and police brutality against black Americans.